What a whirlwind weekend. We recently spent approximately 48 hours in San Francisco in order to attend the wedding of a friend of mine. Our flight took off bright and early at 6 am on Friday and we touched down back home late Sunday afternoon. I say that in the past tense despite the fact that I’m drafting this post high above the clouds. (Too bad United’s domestic flights don’t offer the free flight tracker like they do on international flights; love that feature!) This was the first time both my husband and I have been to San Francisco, or even California, so I wanted to share some of experiences.
We stayed in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco and, admittedly, didn’t see much else aside from a car window. I knew going in that the neighborhood was a tourist-focused area and I was hesitant about staying there. For my tastes, I wouldn’t stay in the area again if I returned to San Francisco. We stayed at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf and while it was clean and the employees were helpful, knowledgeable and friendly, in truth, the place was a little rundown. The overnight rain came through a leaky window in our room and soaked some things we’d unpacked. But the room was very spacious and the bed was comfortable.
Some of the best travel experiences that I’ve had are ones that don’t cost a penny. We spent an afternoon exploring the Golden Gate Park and only saw a small fraction of it. In particular, we visited the park for the Japanese Tea Garden (more on that in another post!) but ended up wandering around til we had to head back to our hotel. But what a lovely park! Around every corner there’s something to surprise you. At one point, we hiked up a steep set of stairs to be rewarded with a pond of ducks with a waterfall on the far side. I loved walking through an open air rose garden and guessing who was being portrayed on the countless busts and monuments that checkered the area (more on that in another post, too!). I’ve already mentally bookmarked the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences for our next visit.
We also made an exciting afternoon trip to Japantown. Although the neighborhood is rather small, it was a fun excursion! I loved the outdoor art and monuments, in particular the Peace Pagoda which was surrounded by teenagers in cosplay costumes the afternoon we were there. The Japan Center Malls was great to walk through with lots of interesting shops, including Kinokuniya, a very large bookstore. We went home with a lovely Kotobuki tea set at Daikoku By Shiki. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try any of the restaurants but there were plenty and they all looked delicious.
San Francisco Eats
One of the best restaurant meals we had during our trip was breakfast at Darren’s Cafe. I had found the cafe via Yelp prior to our trip and it looked perfect for us: they serve both traditional American breakfast food and Vietnamese food. We were their first customers that morning and my husband devoured the BBQ pork pho while I enjoyed the crab Benedict. The people were friendly and the place was clean and comfortable. One tip when using the internet: it might not always be right. Yelp listed Darren’s Cafe as opening at 7 am but we found they now open at 7:30 am.
Meanwhile our first meal in San Francisco was a light “breakfast” at Boudin Bakery at Fisherman’s Wharf. The company calls themselves the “Original San Francisco Sourdough French Bread.” They’re obviously focused on the tourist market; it was certainly succeeding for them because they were busy at 10 am and it was a little chaotic. In addition to a large gift shop and museum, they’ve got a crew of bread bakers working at a window that you can watch from the street. The bakers are rigged up with microphones so that you can talk with them as they work. As a home bread baker, I found watching their technique — and the speed with which they worked — amazing. I think I picked up a few tips! The food, however, was eh. I got the sourdough French toast with fresh berries and my husband had the clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. The French toast was overcooked and dry while the fruit, although very fresh, was limited considering it was an extra cost. The chowder and bread bowl were fresh but bland. That said, I did have a bacon and egg sandwich on toasted sourdough at the airport as we were heading home and it was very tasty.
We also had decent meals at Alioto’s Waterside Café, where they went out of their way to get us a table tucked in a corner where we could look out over the boats docked outside and over the bay, and Lou’s Fish Shack, whose fish tacos won my husband over. We also stopped into Jack’s Cannery Bar after seeing their lunch menu out front but apparently they weren’t serving food so we left after a couple of drinks. They did have live music that afternoon, however, with a gentleman doing an…interesting cover of Mungo Jerry’s “Summertime.”
And did I mention the city is rather excited about the San Francisco Giants currently being in the World Series? Yeah. It was an experience.